I can admit that I look a bit younger than my actual age. Most people who meet me for the first time assume that I'm in my early 20s or even in my late teens. Just like another fellow fountain of youth-finder, Bianca Lawson, I am grateful for those types of assumptions.
However, there are times when assumptions are harmful, offensive, or can downright block an opportunity. Sometimes when we assume negative things about other people because of things such as negative television images and propaganda, gossip, fear, guilt, or even a lack of communication, we limit the rich learning experience we have as humans to grow and connect.
I recently had an experience with an older woman who just so happened to be sitting next to me at an event. She overhead one of my associates ask me about how it felt being back to work and off medical leave. Somewhere along the lines (I'm not sure at what point of the conversation this happens), but she begins lecturing me on the importance of a two-parent household when raising a child.
She went on and on about the wrongs of my generation and how we are wild and do things out of order. We need to get married first before having children because "it takes two." She then goes on to say that she was apart of that cycle that broke the "nuclear family structure," that she experienced growing up.
I'm not sure how the conversation came to this point at all (as I mention above). And, at first I thought this was an innocent enough commentary about her beliefs on family "tradition" (hint the quotation marks) until she says to me, "So where's your baby?"
Record scratch. My what now?
"I don't have any children," I respond to her.
"You said you were on leave. Maternity leave, right?"
I laugh. "No. Medical leave. I had a major surgery."
"Oh. I thought..."
That's when I put two and two together. You're lecturing me about this imaginary baby and made assumptions about me. Interesting.
Now, I'm not going to sit here behind this computer and justify the words she said. So many people walk around believing their way is "right" when in fact we're all just humans trying to understand this little thing called life together. No one has all the answers, and we're all just learning as we go, so I won't fault her.
But, I found it ironic that the woman lectured me on my generation, when she's apart of the generation that raised ol' "triflin' us." Not to mention, she's the one who admitted she fell into those descriptions she was trying to throw on me. Again, interesting.
I didn't recant this story to make anyone feel bad. I wrote this story to expose the dangers of assuming. Instead of finding out my story, asking me questions that she obviously had, she decided to create one for me.
She treated me in the way she constructed in her worldview.
This is incredibly dangerous. This is how hate crimes happen, people are enslaved, groups of people targeted unfairly, kids are mistreated, and the list goes on. Assumptions also prevent you from being able to connect with people because you've already decided -- without communicating with them, might I add -- that they wouldn't be a fit for you, even though you've never sat down and talked to them or gave them a chance.
In this life we're going to come into contact with all kinds of people, and we never know who we'll end up talking to. Treat people with grace, dignity, and respect, regardless of what you might think. After all, you may be entertaining angels unawares.